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BiographySampo, a new intelligent web service, displays the lives and connections of renowned Finns

What do the personal networks of Alvar Aalto, Jean Sibelius or Eliel Saarinen look like and how do they intertwine?
Aalto University / Students

The BiographySampo is a data service that enables anyone to easily browse and study the information in biographies and related data sources. The application is based on more than 13 000 short biographies in the National Biography of the Finnish Literature Society and other databases. The material has been enriched with information from other sources: for instance, the collections of the National Library, material from the National Archives, Ateneum Art Museum’s collections, and Wikipedia.

The service compiles and links information about the lives and networks of renowned historical Finns into a new kind of knowledge graph on the semantic web.

Details of the life and work of architect Eliel Saarinen in map and timeline views in the BiographySampo.

‘BiographySampo offers new kinds of tools for carrying out digital humanities research and data analysis of biographies using artificial intelligence and linked open data technologies. With language technology, the texts have been transformed into a data service that can be used to study Finnish history and make connections between people, places and events in surprising ways’, says the project’s director, Aalto University Professor Eero Hyvönen, who also directs the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities (HELDIG) at the University of Helsinki.

The BiographySampo can also be used to study groups of people and social networks based on time, place, professional activities, or various topics. They can be visualised, analysed and compared using maps, timelines, and network analysis.

The service can be used to outline Finnish history through prominent individuals and their networks

Eero Hyvönen

‘The service can be used to outline Finnish history through prominent individuals and their networks. The underlying language analysis can also be used to find differences in vocabularies and discourse in biographies,’ Hyvönen explains.

In the biographies of male Members of Parliament (MP) in Finland, for example, the word ‘lead’ is mentioned much more often than in the biographies of female MPs, where the word ‘family’ features heavily.

‘The new tools help people to piece together the multi-dimensional biographical data and networks of Finnish people across generations. The multifaceted range of smart tools that make up the service is completely unique’, says Dr. Kirsi Keravuori, Managing Editor of the Biographical Centre of the Finnish Literature Society.

The BiographySampo is a new edition in the Sampo series of linked open data applications developed by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. The applications already released include the CultureSampo (2009), BookSampo (2011), and WarSampo (2015). The award-winning applications have had hundreds of thousands of users.

Aalto University, the Finnish Literature Society (SKS), and the Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Helsinki (HELDIG) will launch the BiographySampo online service 27 September in the great hall of the Finnish Literature Society, 1 PM–4PM at Hallituskatu 1, Helsinki.

More information on BiographySampo:
https://seco.cs.aalto.fi/projects/biografiasampo/en

Registration for the publication event:
https://seco.cs.aalto.fi/events/2018/2018-09-27-biografiasampo/

Further information:
Eero Hyvönen
Professor, Aalto University
Director, University of Helsinki, HELDIG Centre
[email protected]
tel. +358 50 3841618

Kirsi Keravuori
Managing Editor
Finish Literature Society Biography Centre
[email protected]
tel. +358 40 5640264

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